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Walla Walla High School’s JROTC Rifle Team Captain Cassidy Hanson earned the title of JROTC Western
Regional Rifle Champion this weekend in Phoenix, Arizona. The match featured over 100 of the top qualifying high school ROTC marksmen from across the western region of the US was held at the Rawhide Event Center in Chandler on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4-5.
The Phoenix match is the second of three matches that pitted the top Army JROTC shooters against each other vying for honors and an invitation to the All Service JROTC National Championship in Camp Perry, Ohio this March. Over 400 high school JROTC programs compete in local qualifying matches to gain an invitation to the event. The team, captained this year by Hanson received invitations for both the precision class and sporter class rifle teams. Sporter Team members qualifying for the match were Cadet Captain Wyatt Hutson, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell Wooster, Cadet Captain McKenna Hart, Cadet Lieutenant Gerry Soto and Cadet Sergeant Sara Justice. Serving on the Precision Team were Hanson, Cadet Lieutenant Tristan Scott, Cadet Lieutenant Kaden Kerr, and Cadet First Sergeant Raquelle Justice.
The match consisted of 2 days of Olympic-Style air rifle shooting with competitors shooting 20 record shots in each of three firing positions; prone, standing and kneeling. Each shot is worth a total of 10 points, with each shooting a daily score out of a possible 600 each day.
Shooters were divided into 3 relays each day, with the sporter teams shooting the first relay and precision teams shooting later in the day.
The Blue Devil sporter team shot their highest score of the year on day 1, led by senior Wyatt Hutson who produced a 523, followed by Soto at 501. Their team score of 1998 put them in 6th place out of the 12 teams present at the Arizona location.
The Precision team finished the first day with a team total of 2290, putting them in 2nd place 13 points behind the team from Fountain Fort Carson High School in Colorado. Hanson held WAHI’s top score of the day with a 580, putting her in 3rd place overall at the match. Teammate Tristan Scott finished the day 2 places behind Hanson at 577 with Justice at 575 in 6th.
“We shot really well as a team in prone today.” Said Hanson on Friday “We struggled a little in prone last week in Spokane, so it was good to have a good showing here in that position.”
On the second day of competition the sporter team turned another season-high score of 2009, dropping however in placement to 7th overall, led this time by Soto who shot a career high score of 521 followed by Hutson at 514 and Hart with a career personal best of 507.
“Soto was absolutely on fire today” Said Mebes “He’s been turning excellent scores in practice, but as a new sporter team member it is really good to see him shoot this well in his first big competition.”
In the precision class, the Blue Devils turned a slightly lower score the second day of the match at 2288, still maintaining 2nd place and finishing 16 points behind the team from Colorado. Hanson again led the team with a 579, giving her a career high two day total of 1159 and placing her in a tie for first place with Sarah Hancock from Fountain Fort Carson. Scott produced a 578 raising his placement to the number 4 spot for a two day total of 1155.
The championship concluded with a final match on Saturday afternoon. In the final, the 8 shooters with the highest 2 day totals trade blows for 10 shots from the standing position to determine final placement and medals.
Hanson and Hancock began the final in a tie with 1159 points. On the first shot Hanson pulled a low-right 8 with Hancock producing a 10.5, jumping into the lead by 2 points. Over the next 7 shots they dueled shot for shot, matching each other’s pace so that the two of them were never as much as 2 points apart at any time. On the 7th shot Hanson overtook first place and managed to maintain a slight lead to the end, finishing with a 1259.1 to clinch the JROTC Western Regional Title.
“That is the closest match final I have seen since 2015” Commented Mebes “You could have cut the tension with a knife. People kept tapping me on the shoulder with wide eyes on each shot as she closed that 2 point gap, little by little.”
“I really had to shake off that first shot” Said Hanson later “It was just nerves. Plus the crowd kept cheering every time we got ready to fire. Sergeant Mebes has us train that way though, so I was able to block it out each time. It felt really good to have all that training pay off today.”
Scott successfully defended his 4th place spot against Allison Courtney of Fountain Fort Carson, who closed in on him from the 5th place position, reducing the gap between them to 3/10th of a point on the last shot.
The third leg of the Army JROTC National Match will be held next weekend in Ohio. The results of this match will determine final national placement for Army JROTC and invitations for shooters to compete in the All-Service JROTC Rifle Championships this March in Camp Perry. Hanson’s placement as Army western champion will most likely earn her a place as an individual, with Scott in consideration as well.
The Blue Devils return home this week to train for the 3 Position Junior Olympic Match held in Spokane this week.